The Civico Istituto Musicale di Pavia (Civic Institute of Music of Pavia) was officially founded in May 1867. It was set up as a preparatory school for those who wanted to gain entry to the National Guard Music Corps, which had already been established in the town in the early years of the nineteenth century. Courses for wind instruments and string instruments were introduced to train musicians for the Teatro Fraschini orchestra as well as courses in "choral singing" to breathe new life into the various town choirs. Isidorio Rossi was the first director of the Institute as well as being the bandleader.
Although the institute was thriving with scholarly activities and concerts in which the students took part in various communal events (Premi agli Espositori 26th-27th September 1877, the solemn inauguration of monuments dedicated to Alessandro Volta in 1878 and to Carlo Porta in 1880, the first performance of Enrico Bernardi's work La rotta del Pè at the Teatro Guidi on 13th September 1879), the school was forced to close between the years 1880 and 1885.
The new director was Emilio Neri, a piano teacher who had trained in Parma. There were sixty six students enrolled in the first year, rising to one hundred and twenty in the second. Neri was succeeded in 1909 by Giovanni Moscarola who was at the helm of the institute until 1924 and managed to move things forward even though his period of tenure was largely overshadowed by the First World War. With numbers fluctuating over the years they settled down at around one hundred members, reaching an extraordinary peak in 1914, when a new course in the violin had to be set up under the maestro Temistocle Mancini.
In 1924, the year in which the band folded, Franco Vittadini took over. He had emerged from the international music culture scene and was someone who would do everything within his power to revitalise the teaching side of things. He suggested courses for learning the piano and cultural subjects alongside existing courses and this brought the number of teachers up to eleven. This move proved to be effective and, on 11th April 1937, the civic music institute received official recognition from the Royal Academy of Italy for their teaching activities.
On Vittadini's death in 1948, the school had a roll of 221 in spite of the toll that the Second World War had taken on numbers. They had set up courses in composing, piano, violin, cello, theory and solfège (2 classes), double-bass, trumpet, clarinet, flute, history of music, complementary harmony and complementary piano.
Guido Farina, composer of operas, composer, pupil and friend of the deceased musician took over as director. On his appointment, the school became a civic music institute and was named after Franco Vittadini.
In 1979, Leonardo Taschera took over from Farina and remained in office until 1985. He was followed by Bruno Villani (1985-1996), Ugo Nastrucci (1996-200), Walter Casali (2001-2009), under whose direction the institute rose to the level of state conservatory and, lastly, Maurizio Preda (2010).